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University presidents propose hundreds of faculty layoffs and dozens of program closures

10 Mar 2011 9:30 PM | Deleted user
Presidents Smatresk and Glick this week released respective plans to cut UNLV's and UNR’s budgets by a combined $57 million in the coming biennium. They will present these plans at Friday's Board of Regents meeting for discussion, though no direct action is expected.

UNR President Milt Glick notified his campus Monday that he will propose a plan to cut $26 million (which is only half of the reduction for UNR in the Governor's proposed budget). This plan, which he described in a letter to the campus, would cut 260 positions, of which 150 layoffs. The academic programs specified in this proposal are the School of Social Work, French, Theater and Dance, whose faculty would be laid off, through a process of curricular review. The remainder of the cut would be achieved through reduction in facilities management, information technology, student services, library and other support functions.

UNLV President Neal Smatresk sent a letter and a plan to the UNLV campus Wednesday. It proposes to eliminate another 300 positions campus-wide, of which 160 academic positions, including 120 layoffs of full-time instructional lines (almost all of which are tenured or tenure-track). This would involve the elimination of more than 30 degree programs and 12 academic departments. It would reduce our student headcount by several thousand. This plan also includes anticipated across-the-board salary reductions of 5 percent and increases in student fees of greater than 10 percent each year of the biennium (including significantly sharper increases in those programs that will offer market-based tuition).

These plans – and moreover, the state budget plan on which they are based – represent the end of Nevada's universities as we have known them. Everyone will be impacted – most immediately those whose jobs, livelihoods and careers are at risk; obviously our students; but also, all faculty who would remain would be working in a very different environment. Many were asking yesterday, "Are you safe?" No one should feel "safe" or unaffected.

Friday the Board of Regents will discuss, but not act on, these plans. There are many questions that the Regents need to ask and much discussion they need to undertake about strategic planning and setting priorities. They also need to take responsibility for difficult decisions about tuition and fees, about whether they intend to preserve faculty rights during the implementation of cuts when they are made and, above all, about whether there are parts of the NSHE budget not yet discussed or potential sources of revenue or reserves that ought to be included in spending reduction plans given this extraordinary moment. It's unlikely that this will all be addressed on Friday, but we ought to at least wait and see.

Obviously, the legislature now has a clear choice. Many legislators have said that they have not yet seen "pain" in the System of Higher Education, and especially its universities. There are some, clearly, who want only to inflict pain; there are even some who seem to think the highest priority at this moment is to authorize concealed lethal weapons to be carried on campus. In short, legislators need to take a clear look at what is in front of them. If they have problems with the credibility of the System leadership's claims in the past about budget impacts, then, by all means, address those concerns with those who made them in the past. But it is simply wrong to visit that issue on current and future students and faculty by pretending that unprecedented cuts of this magnitude do not represent "any real pain."

On campus, the Faculty Advisory Committee has been working on several fronts and will likely become more visible after we get some greater degree of clarification following the Board meeting. The campus and statewide NFA have also been preparing for the political and legal issues that will soon be raised. In the meantime, please stay informed and involved. Many good ideas have been suggested, and in many cases I have urged those suggesting them to follow up – do the budget research, do the logistical planning, communicate the thought publicly. Now is not the time to ask, "What will be done for me?"

Those who are
NFA members at the time of an action (such as a layoff notice) would be eligible for legal defense support. But just as there is no angel that is going to solve the state's budget mess, there is no one idea, person or action that is going to solve its awful impact on our campus community. We, the faculty, have long been and remain a big part the solution, through our collective and individual sacrifices.

We now need to find it in ourselves to respond to the magnitude of this threat. Faculty leadership, the NFA and faculty senates statewide are preoccupied on these issues almost full-time. Speaking for myself, I welcome everyone's involvement in all ways.

No one else understands better than we do what is at stake.

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